Cruise, Dance, Travel, Repeat – Tristan MacManus on S17 of DWTS & More

Professional Dancer Tristan MacManus on ABC’s “Dancing With The Stars” – Photo Credit to ABC

“Dancing With The Stars” returns to ABC on Monday September 16th. One of the pros that fans are requesting to see back on the dance floor is Tristan MacManus. MacManus has been on the show for 5 seasons — starting off with the original troupe and then partnered with Nancy Grace, Gladys Knight, Pamela Anderson, and Dorothy Hamill. MacManus just finished a stint on the DWTS Cruise featured on the Holland America Cruise Line. The luxurious excursion allowed fans the chance to attend panels, master classes, a fashion show, and special performances featuring some of their favorite personalities from the show. MacManus and I talk about the anticipated 17th season of the show, the cruise, and more in our interview.

You were on the Holland America “Dancing With The Stars” Cruise. What was the experience like being on a cruise ship with the cast, crew and fans?

The cruise was great. I hadn’t been on a boat since I was a kid. So, I was a bit worried about sea sickness, but bar one day it was all great. And the seas there are super calm. The cast is great. I got to catch up with Carson, Shawn, Sabrina and Kym again, and the rest of the cast are my friends from previous shows so it was all great fun. The fans of the show were great as well — super friendly and the weeks events were really good. We had dance lessons, questions and answers, dance competitions photo shoots and signings so all in all I loved it and look forward to doing more in the future.

So much talk of Season 17 has been going on. Of course the audience is told every pre-season that the Pros won’t know if they’ll be back or not until close to the premiere. Name one thing that you’re looking forward to on Season 17.

I think for everyone, it’s the same — you really just want to know if you are involved or not. It can be quite frustrating waiting around to know if you are going to be working or not and we left in limbo a bit too long. So, for sure just knowing if we are involved is the biggest thing. After that especially this season with the show being cut to one night a week it will be interesting to see the changes in the format and how the new version is received. A new season is always an opportunity to freshen things up or make changes so hopefully we all have some surprises to look forward to.

The Cruise follows the legacy of what DWTS does for its audience, which is give them opportunities to connect with their favorite personalities from the show (In the past the show’s toured the country, put a show in Vegas, etc.). Do you think more events like these connecting cast members from the show to the audience can happen in future?

I’d like to think so. I wasn’t around for the tours that DWTS used to do, but I’d love for that to come back. I think it’s a great way to connect with the audiences- maybe the budget isn’t there for a tour. I’m not sure why it stopped, but I’d love  for that to happen again for a lot of different reasons. For one it gives us more work, but also it gives people a chance to see what we do up close. A live experience is so much more entertaining than behind a TV screen in my opinion. So to come to the east coast, to go north, to travel south or even just move up and down the west coast it gives people an opportunity to come see a great show. We as dancers get to travel a lot and perform on the off season but not generally with our celebrities bar a few exceptions I’d imagine.

Now, you haven’t performed Argentine Tango on the show yet. What’s the key to a captivating and successful AT routine?

No I haven’t. I think the important factor in any dance or any style is to live within the dance and the story you are trying to tell. For the show I think maybe to a certain degree its important for people to see tricks and fancy acrobatics and colors and what not, but I think the most simplistic connections are the best for me personally- it’s a game of finding that balance always to what people want to see and what you want to tell. Scent of a Woman is a great example- the back story to it is so strong that it carries the moment the music is perfect the relationship is perfect and the moves are simple.
Editor’s Note: Check out this amazing AT Tristan did with Katherine Jenkins for her Christmas Special! 

Are the off seasons more relaxing or stressful than when the show’s on television?

My off season is equally as demanding as the show. Certainly this off season with a lot of changes in my life, and what I’m trying to do. I travel a lot more during the off season, so my body is pretty tired but I’m lucky to have the opportunities to travel so I’m not complaining. This phase wont last for too much longer so I’ll work as much as I can while I can. I work hard but I make sure I get my free time for my family and friends as well between jobs. I’m doing a lot more events which I hadn’t before, like the baseball games, and they are great fun meeting people and talking to people is always good. And it’s not just dance all the time either so the knees are happy. I really enjoy hosting shows and Im getting to do that as well with particular shows so I’m in a good place. Either way its only stressful if you allow it to be so I have no worries.

Is there any dance style that you haven’t performed that you would like to perform on Season 17 (i.e. Lambada, AT, Jazz, etc.)?

Not particularly. I love watching all styles but doing them is a different thing for me. I think a lot of our dancers enjoy all the styles on the show now and probably on their off time are taking class in different styles bar the weird fusion things the show comes up with haha, but it’s not really for me. I’d like to maybe do some Irish dancing just to throw it in the mix, but I’m not good at that either so what do ya do??!! I enjoy the ballroom dances and Im happy with that.

Let’s give you a scenario: You walk into the studio with your partner and they bring back fusion week. The two styles they give you are Paso Doble and Tango. How do you blend those dances together, but make sure they stand out on their own?

Well, with Paso and Tango in my eyes are very very similar they obviously have there own characteristics and thats the important thing to show – what is what but for sure shaping would be the big thing, and the intensity of each dance can be interpreted differently or the same. There is no anger involved in my eyes, but it could be a challenge in either dance or the paso could be a challenge and a tango be a resolution. Again the easy argument could be to just do ‘Paso steps’ and ‘Tango steps’ which makes a dance for sure but not a performance. Some people want to certain steps but just like our trio last season with Kellie all the characteristics are there for the dance and thats what makes it what it is not chasse capes or stamping you feet or making horns on your head with your fingers.

You’ve done a Trio with Katherine Jenkins, Kirstie Alley, and then Kellie Pickler. How did you feel being brought into those routines?

It’s always nice being asked to help out, and I know people love the trios but I am always worried about being in the way a little- sometimes a third person can be more of a hinderance than a help, but I was made feel very welcome by all three teams and I enjoyed the experience a lot. Where to fit a second partner in and when the transitions come in does the dance make sense with a third person and are we switching for the sake of the rules or because it makes sense- its a difficult one. I like to see the process of other dancers how they put everything together how they behave and how their week is and how they deal with all the produced or reality moments so I liked it at that stage of the competition it’s been going for a few weeks and people are more comfortable within their partnerships I think it’s good to have a new energy in the room to bounce off and good cop bad cop it a bit. I’d like to think I’ve helped the situation each time, but the value of me being there is not really for me to say.

If you make it to trio week next season and the style is Cha Cha Cha which other Pro would you choose to be in it?

It would really depend on the partner I reckon- I’m sure there are different reasons for picking your partner for trio- it could be cos you are friends, it could be the fan base it could be dance style, height, personality whatever but I would ask my partner who she would feel comfortable with and then try and reason why I think it would be right or wrong- once your partner is comfortable you are golden- just not too comfortable haha.

Anything you want to say to your fans?

Just a big thanks for their continued support. It really is great. I know I’m not always online and telling everyone what I’m doing every minute of my day, but I appreciate that you all respect that and that it’s great to feel that you don’t have to do anything to fit in but be yourself and by continuing to have my back when I’m off doing whatever it is I’m doing. I appreciate that. If I can encourage just one person to break the mould and do what you love a different way then I’m set- always find a different or new way to do what you love. There shouldn’t be a template of how to do things, cos then you are just living or following someones else’s journey. Go enjoy your own.

A huge thank you to Tristan for always being so cooperative and kind with the interviews! Always a wonderful pleasure working with you. 

Follow Tristan on Twitter: @TristanMacManus

He’ll be doing some appearances and performances like “Ballroom With A Twist” soon! So keep an eye out! Thanks for tuning in. 

— Steph

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